Conference on tripartism


EU Presidency Conference on Tripartism in an enlarged European Union

Co-organised by the Danish Ministry of Employment and the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions

Hotel Comwell, Elsinore, Denmark
29-30 October 2002

See also conference information from the Danish Ministry of Employment.

Speech abstract - Metka StokaDebevec
State Under-Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Slovenia

Industrial relations in Slovenia

The report on industrial relations in Europe, prepared by the European Commission, that includes also a chapter on the situation in the candidate countries, and the report prepared by the Slovene researcher Dr. Marisa Stanojevic, gives very detailed information on the development of industrial relations and social dialogue in Slovenia.

I believe that most of the participants of the workshop are familiar with these papers or will have the opportunity to read them later on. That is why this paper is not dealing with the history of the social dialogue in Slovenia. I will just point out some weak points that I see and that have to be improved in the near future.

But before doing that, please allow me to make a few comments on the Commissions report. I must congratulate the authors for it. I find that it gives a quite correct picture of the situation in Slovenia. Many of the general findings and concluding remarks are also valid for Slovene social dialogue too.

Both the trade unions and the employers' situation are well presented. I have to make only a small correction. There are two free employers' associations in Slovenia, besides the two chambers of commerce, which still act as an employers' representative, and not only one as is stated in the report. There is one association for the large enterprises and one that gathers small enterprises, particularly those from the crafts sector.

The statement about fragmentation of the trade unions applies to Slovenia too but, contrary to the forecast in the report, for the time being no signs of mergers between them can be seen.

Concerning the information about sectoral dialogue, I have to add that, despite what is said in the report, in Slovenia there is sectoral dialogue in the public sector. And it has been very intensive in the last years, since the trade unions in these sectors are very strong. It is true that there is no employers' association in this sector, but is not the Chamber of commerce playing that role. For the time being it is the Government that acts as the employer.

The statement on obligatory collective agreements in Slovenia also needs to be commented on. There is no legal provision about agreement being obligatory in Slovenia. The situation derives from the fact that one of the signatories of the agreements has compulsory membership and the fact that the labour act hasn't provided for the minimum rights of workers. The labour act only stated that a number of workers' rights have to be agreed by collective agreements. A new Labour act which provides for minimum rights is coming into force which means that the situation will change significantly. The collective agreements from now on will result from voluntary negotiations.

To summarise, in Slovenia:

  • all the legal and formal frameworks and the necessary institutions for successful social dialogue as recognised in developed countries are in place;
  • independent, democratically elected social partners who have links with related organisations within the EU framework and in the world are present;
  • tripartite bodies exist in various fields;
  • the system of collective negotiations at national, sectoral and company levels is developed;
  • labour legislation is up to date and in line with EU legislation.

We can be quite satisfied with what has been achieved up to now.

We consider the consensus of the social partners achieved in relation to the pension reform a few years ago and the new Labour Act that was adopted last year also to be a particular success of social dialogue in the Republic of Slovenia. The social partners are also included in decision making at other levels: in the National Council, in the Institute for Pension and Disability Insurance, the Health Insurance Institute and the Employment Institute. Similarly, as in some member states, Slovenia also introduced a system of workers' participation.

Room for improvement

Despite relative satisfaction, there is awareness of specific deficiencies, which have to be rectified in the future. The further development of social dialogue is one of the priorities in Slovenia. That is why Slovenia entered into the PHARE project "Encouraging Social Dialogue", which has just started.

In order to improve the situation it is necessary to recognise the weaknesses. So please let me point out some for you:

As in other candidate states, employers' organisations represent a rather weak link in the social dialogue. In view of the relatively short history of their existence, employers' associations are not yet sufficiently developed that they can independently oppose the pressures of trade unions, which have a much longer tradition.

Employers

The associations of employers from my point of view perhaps too often rely on the Chamber of commerce. Due to its longer tradition as well as greater financial power, deriving also from compulsory membership, the chamber has a stronger staff and organisational structure at its disposal. Since the Chamber does not correspond to the criterion of voluntary association and its eligibility has already been questioned by the social partners this will probably a matter of discussion in the near future. I personally believe that the sooner the employers' associations become completely independent in the proper sense of the word, the stronger they will become and the greater their impact to the social dialogue.

Trade unions

Also on the trade union side the transitional changes haven't been completed yet. The trade unions are still very fragmented and we are even facing further fragmentation in Slovenia. That makes social dialogue more complicated and it is impossible to get a unified trade union response. It is hard to say what the future development will be. But I believe sooner or later also the Slovene trade unions will begin to merge, especially if they will need more strength to negotiate wiht stronger employers' associations.

Government

The Members of the Economic Social Council include representatives of the Government, Ministers and senior state officials. On the one hand, this is positive, since it gives this institution greater weight both among the general public and among the social partners. On the other hand, it makes decision making more difficult, or prevents the adoption of unanimous decisions whenever discussion takes place on legislative proposals of the Government with which the social partners do not agree.

A Minister, a member of the Economic Social Council, cannot vote other than how the Government has decided about government proposals, so the ESC cannot adopt a unified negative opinion on such a law. For the time being we do not foresee any important changes in that area. There were discussions on preparing a law on the ESC, but there were no ideas of changing the government representation in it.

The role of the Government in this area is double. It appears as the employer for the public sector and as the third partner in tripartite dialogue for the private sector. To date, the role of the Government as third partner has been very important, especially in the areas of pay policy and relations between employers' and employees' associations.

This was extremely useful in the phase of setting up these institutions. However, from my point of view, persisting in this role might be dangerous. It could retard further development of a proper social dialogue and the achievement of the full independence of employers and employees, which must improve their capacity to take on their role at both national and international levels.

The Government certainly cannot and does not intend to withdraw from social dialogue. It will continue to support and assist the development of tripartite and bipartite dialogue, through further strengthening the dialogue between the partners and increasing the public awareness of the importance of it.

The social agreement that is currently under discussion between the social partners will be a further step in this direction. One of the ways to achieve greater knowledge and experience for all the players in this game is also the previously mentioned PHARE project on enhancing social dialogue.

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